At the conclusion of 2017, many media outlets were asking local officials, including the police department, about the upward trend in violent crime, specifically homicides. One hundred and fifty homicides were disheartening for officials and citizens alike. Many times I struggle with the release of numbers knowing that each number represents a person, a family and friends who have all suffered a great loss. Their loss can never be adequately articulated, but doing so by just a number seems even more callous. Yet as a society, this is the matrix by which we measure crime: raw numbers or percentages.
I am optimistic as Kansas City starts 2018. Slowly this city is starting to realize that the crime in Kansas City needs to be addressed from several different angles, not just through the police and enforcement. Some of the partnerships that have great potential in 2018:
- The Police Foundation of Kansas City, a private/public partnership that is bringing cutting-edge technology to this city to help reduce violent crime.
- Soon there will be social workers at every patrol division. This will be another private/public partnership aimed at increasing the ability of field officers to follow through on issues they find while working in the field.
- The TIPS Hotline, part of the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission, recently raised the reward money for information on homicides from $2,000 to $5,000.
As I mentioned above, we cannot enforce our way out of crime. But I want to send a clear message to those who decide to commit acts of violence in Kansas City that KCPD and our criminal justice partners are working harder and smarter to make sure you are identified, arrested and handed off to the courts. KCPD has always focused efforts on those who we know commit crime. In 2018, we will continue to do so with our partners, but we will be doing so with a new sense of urgency. The uptick in homicides has led to more suspects being identified. Since December 1, KCPD has arrested 18 homicide suspects. I believe the increased sharing of criminal intelligence information, with a new sense of urgency, has led to this increase in homicide arrests. The TIPS Hotline has also paid its first $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in a homicide.
The year 2018 will also bring an opportunity to increase the relationship between neighborhoods and KCPD. KCPD soon will expand the number of Community Interaction Officers. This closely follows the model that the New York City Police Department has used to help neighborhoods become strong and vibrant instead of lacking in leadership and structure. In part because of these neighborhood-focused efforts, New York City has been experiencing an unprecedented drop in violent crime. Our Community Interaction Officers will look to strengthen not only relationships but the bond between neighborhoods and the police department. This will help to create the level of trust that is needed to form a true partnership.
Twelve short months from now will let us know if the aforementioned direction, cooperation, initiatives, and enforcement activities have reduced crime. The executive staff at KCPD will continue to evaluate, research and implement strategies that work on reducing violent crime so Kansas City is no longer on the ten most-violent cities list. That is just the first big hurdle toward the goal of making Kansas City the safest city in America.
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